The Government June 3, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with deposit-taking institutions to participate in the pilot of the National Identification System (NIDS).
Representatives of the Jamaica Bankers Association signed on behalf of the banks during a ceremony held at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, in his remarks at the signing, said that NIDS will improve the ease of doing business while further advancing Jamaica’s quest of becoming a digital society.
The Prime Minister said that the partnership with the banks will ensure that there is a simplified process when opening bank accounts using the national identity verification and authentication system.
“Once someone comes to your bank with the NIDS card… that’s all you need for the verification of the identity,” he pointed out.
The Prime Minister said that the absence of proper identification (ID) remains a significant barrier for thousands of Jamaicans, noting that $300 million in assistance provided by the Government through the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme remains uncollected due to the inability to verify the identity of persons.
He encouraged members of the banking fraternity to engage their customers about the benefits of digitisation and the transformations taking place in their organisations.
“Ensure that the promise of digitisation results in reduced banking costs to the average citizen,” he further urged.
Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, said the partnership will increase access to deposit-taking institutions, noting that a recent Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) study estimated that more than 17 per cent or 500,000 Jamaicans are unbanked.
“The ability to identify consumers has been a challenge for our banks… and a frustrating matter for our citizens,” he pointed out.
Minister Green said that the ID card, which will be provided free of cost under NIDS, will ensure a safe, convenient, and reliable means of proving an individual’s identity.
He noted that the card production centre is approximately 97 per cent complete. “We have already interviewed and have people ready to be employed. We are about 90 per cent towards the buildout of our software that will provide the backend services for the national identification system,” Minister Green said.
The first NIDS pilot enrolment site is scheduled to be established in Kingston and St. Andrew by August 2022, with others to be set up in all parishes over time.
“We are partnering with the post office to utlilise their buildout and we have already identified 24 post offices that we will be utilising, modernising, so that citizens can have easy access,” Minister Green said.
President of the Jamaica Bankers Association and Chief Executive Officer, National Commercial Bank, Septimus Blake, in his remarks, said the signing represents a key milestone in Jamaica’s transformation journey, noting that a verifiable identity is a core capability for any modern economy, and a critical enabler of the digital transformation.
“We fully endorse and welcome this initiative because of the expected benefits for banking customers and financial institutions. But beyond that, as a Jamaican citizen, I am equally excited about the positive benefits that will unfold for our country and my fellow citizens,” he said.
Modernisation of State Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is providing financial support for the implementation of NIDS, Benjamin Roseth, said the MOU will pave the way for the NIDS card to be the primary document used to open a bank account.
“Today marks a huge step forward in making the NIDS useful,” he said.
Being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister, NIDS is intended to provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the collection and storage of identity information.
The voluntary system will also facilitate the electronic signing of documents and allow persons to securely access a range of government services online.